When I first heard about Mr. Peeples, I thought it was a joke.
I heard that there was a steak and seafood restaurant using a graffiti artist to decorate the walls and hiring a DJ to spin tunes while wealthy patrons dined. I saw photos of the interior -- a plush red, purple and pink space with gilded accents -- and figured it must be over-the-top for the sake of humor. Mr. Peeples, the subject of this week's cafe review, must be the punchline of some great joke that I didn't yet know. Like Medieval times, I thought. You pay for the experience and the outrageousness of it all, rather than the food.
I was wrong.
Mr. Peeples takes itself very seriously. From the personable but stuffy waiters to the omnipresent microgreens to the deconstructed-to-the-point-of-being-confusing desserts. It's not a joke, and the décor is not intended to be amusingly over-the-top. It's just that outrageous.
Of course, a restaurant's atmosphere and decor are forgivable if the food is wonderful, but the food at Mr. Peeples isn't wonderful. It's just good. It's passable. It's oddly sweet and generally overcooked, but not bad. Still, it's not the type of food I'd pay $250 for, which is approximately what dinner and alcohol for three people cost on one evening I dined there.
The crab cakes were mushy, the campechana seemed like it was made with ketchup, the $40 steak (plus a $15 sauce, 'cause who wants a dry steak?) was way overcooked and had to be sent back, and both desserts remained unfinished after only a few bites because they were far too sweet. What am I paying so much for, I wondered, as I caught a spray-painted image of Audrey Hepburn staring at me in the bathroom mirror.
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"I probably hold the distinction of being one movie star who, by all laws of logic, should never have made it," Hepburn said back to me. "At each stage of my career, I lacked the experience."
OK, she didn't actually say that to me. LSD isn't on the menu at Mr. Peeples, though one might wonder if the interior decorator is familiar with the drug. I thought of that quote by Hepburn as I walked back to my table, though, and it rang true of the restaurant for me.
By all laws of logic, this place should not be making it. The food is overpriced for what you get, the service is hit-or-miss and the décor is dizzyingly distracting, as if to say, "Don't pay attention to that chewy meat, pay attention to me, the sparkling pink chandelier!"
And yet, it's packed. Every time I've been there, it's been packed. People like feeling fancy. They like feeling like they're at a club in Dubai in the comfort of their own Houston neighborhood. Maybe, for that reason, Mr. Peeples will make it. 'Cause it certainly ain't the steak.